As reported over the past five years, human traffickers exploit domestic and foreign victims in CAR, and traffickers exploit victims from CAR abroad. Observers report traffickers primarily exploit CAR nationals within the country and in smaller numbers in Cameroon, Chad, Nigeria, Republic of the Congo, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan, and South Sudan. Perpetrators—including transient merchants, herders, and non-state armed groups—exploit children in domestic servitude, sex trafficking, as well as in forced labor in agriculture, artisanal gold and diamond mines, shops, restaurants and bars, and street vending within CAR. Also, within the country, some relatives exploit children in domestic servitude, and community members exploit Aka (pygmy) minorities in domestic servitude, especially in the southwest of the country. Authorities’ prejudice against individuals in commercial sex—despite its prevalence—hinders victims’ access to justice and assistance. Some government workers reportedly coerced women into sex in exchange for government employment or documents and services to which they were entitled. Fraudulent labor recruiters attract foreigners from nearby countries such as Chad and Libya to enter the country undocumented to work in CAR’s mining sector; armed groups capture and exploit some of these economic migrants in forced labor.
Some relatives or community members coerce girls into forced marriages and subsequently exploit the girls in domestic servitude or sex trafficking. Stemming from severe poverty throughout the country, a government official stated husbands may coerce their wives to engage in commercial sex to cover household expenses, with little recourse from authorities. Officials note family members also exploit children in forced labor and sex trafficking to supplement family income.
Observers reported Central African criminal elements engage in the sex trafficking of girls as young as 13 in maisons de joie (houses of joy) throughout Bangui. Maisons de joie are private residences with little official oversight where CAR nationals serve alcohol and food to middle- and upper-class customers as a cover to exploit girls and women in commercial sex. Criminals reportedly take advantage of abject poverty across the country to recruit women and girls with the promise of money for their children or families.
Violent conflict since 2012 has resulted in chronic instability and the internal displacement of 632,240 people, increasing the vulnerability of adults and children to forced labor and sex trafficking. Observers noted individuals or communities living in conflict, crisis, or post-disaster settings, minorities, and undocumented migrants are at particular risk of sex trafficking and forced labor. Observers also reported 2.8 million people were in need of humanitarian assistance and more than 717,000 people were internally displaced as of June 2021.
Escalating pre- and post-election violence resulted in armed groups recruiting and using more child soldiers, with nearly 3,000 recruited into combat since the country’s December 2020 elections. The coalition of six armed groups (Mouvement Patriotique pour la Centrafrique [MPC], Return, Reclamation, and Rehabilitation [3R], Union pour la Paix en Centrafrique [UPC], Front Populaire pour la Renaissance de la Centrafrique [FPRC], Anti-Balaka Mokom, and Anti-Balaka Ndomate), intent on overthrowing the democratically elected government—the Coalition of Patriots for Change (CPC)—continued to recruit child soldiers during the reporting period. Additionally, individual militias associated with Anti-Balaka; Ex- Seleka; FPRC; Lords Resistance Army; 3R; UPC; and other armed groups continued to forcibly recruit and use child soldiers in CAR before and after the creation of the CPC. Multiple sources alleged armed groups in southeastern CAR—areas outside of governmental control—kidnapped children and coerced them into serving as child soldiers, in addition to forcing community members into forced labor as porters, cooks, and other support roles, or in illegal mining operations. International organizations reported armed groups recruited children to serve as combatants, servants, child brides, and sex slaves in 2020; armed groups also subjected children to forced labor in the mining sector. Additionally, observers reported FACA forcibly recruited at least one child and used seven children in support roles to man checkpoints, run errands, and gather information in 2021; forces from a Russia-backed group forcibly recruited a child in CAR to gather intelligence during the reporting period.
Since the conflict began in 2012, armed groups have recruited more than 17,000 children. Militias primarily recruited and used child soldiers from the prefectures of Vakaga, Haute-Kotto, Haut-Mbomou, Nana- Grebizi, Nana-Mambere, and Basse-Kotto; these areas were under intermittent government control during the reporting period. Although some children may initially join locally organized community defense groups to protect their families from opposing militias, many commanders maintain influence over these children even after they are demobilized, increasing their risk of re-recruitment. Inadequately funded reintegration programming, continuing instability, and a lack of economic opportunity throughout the country exacerbate the risks of re-recruitment among former child soldiers. Some demobilized child soldiers face violent—and at times deadly—reprisals from their communities following reintegration.